Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Alcoholism Problem.

Tuesday, 17 July 1973

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 267 No. 7

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29.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  asked the Minister for Health his proposals to deal with alcoholic patients outside the mental hospital service.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  Because of the nature of the therapy needed for the treatment of alcoholism and particularly because alcoholic patients tend to have psychological difficulties, their care will continue to be based on the psychiatric services. This does not mean that the services will be provided only at mental hospitals. Treatment is now available at psychiatric units attached to general hospitals and in other special facilities detached from mental hospitals. My Department is examining the manner in which these services might be [978] extended and I have asked the health boards for their views on the needs of their own areas.

I might add that my Department is giving special importance to the development of measures in relation to the community aspects of alcoholism and in this connection health boards have been authorised to appoint social workers with duties specifically in that field.

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  Would the Minister consider making treatment available free to alcoholics?

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  That is a separate question, but I certainly would be prepared to consider it.

Mr. Davern: Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  Arising out of the Minister's reply, would the Minister consider having alcoholics and their families considered as entitled to medical cards because of the nature of the illness and its social implications?

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  I could not answer that without a detailed examination of all the aspects.

Mr. Davern: Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  But would the Minister consider it?

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  Yes, but the Deputy will appreciate that the holder of a medical card is subject to a means test.

Mr. Davern: Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  I appreciate that but, because of the nature of the illness, money does not matter to the individual concerned.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  We seem to be broadening the subject matter of the question.

Mr. J. Lynch: Information on John Lynch  Zoom on John Lynch  Is the Minister aware that Deputy Coughlan, his Labour Party colleague, is reported as having said that the admission of alcoholics to psychiatric units for treatment casts a slur on and is a social embarrassment to the families of alcoholics? Does the Minister agree with that statement? Does he realise that it has been a great source of pain to genuine psychiatric patients and members of their families and will he disassociate himself from these remarks?

[979]Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  That statement has not been brought to my notice.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  We seem to be getting off the subject matter of this question.

Mr. J. Lynch: Information on John Lynch  Zoom on John Lynch  It has been brought to my notice. Would the Minister agree that the admission of alcoholic patients to psychiatric units is a source of embarrassment to these patients and their families?

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  I do not think it can be because at present they are being treated in these institutions.

Mr. J. Lynch: Information on John Lynch  Zoom on John Lynch  Would the Minister agree that an assertion to that effect is a source of pain to genuine psychiatric patients and their families?

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  Would the Minister not agree that, despite what we may have done in this field, there is still a stigma attached to psychiatric illness and that it will take a lot more effort to eliminate it?

Mr. J. Lynch: Information on John Lynch  Zoom on John Lynch  I am surprised that Deputy O'Connell should express such a sentiment in this House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  We are beginning to make statements and to argue. Question No. 30.

30.

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  asked the Minister for Health the number of days lost to industry due to alcoholism in the past year.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  It is impossible to estimate the number of days lost to industry due to alcoholism, as absence from work due to illness is rarely attributed on medical certificates to alcoholism or excessive drinking.

31.

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  asked the Minister for Health the total sum it is proposed to expend in public education programmes against alcoholism in the present year.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  A sum of £150,000 has been approved for health information and education services in the current financial year. Approximately £150,000 of this amount will be spent in an [980] attempt to publicise the dangers of alcoholism.


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